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A geoscientist does more than just look at rocks. (Thinkstock)
A geoscientist does more than just look at rocks. (Thinkstock)

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Job: Geoscientist

Salary: Depending on education, experience and location, people in this profession can start off earning $35,000 to $75,000 a year, according to Earth Sciences Canada. With more than five years of experience, the annual salary can grow to between $80,000 and more than $300,000.

Education: To gain the professional “P.Geo” status, you need a bachelor’s degree in earth science or a related field, followed by 48 months of experience working as a geoscientist. Geoscientists also need to pass an ethics exam.

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The role: Geoscientist is a new term the industry uses to cover geologists, geophysicists, geochemists and environmental geoscientists, according to Oliver Bonham, chief executive officer of Geoscientists Canada, a national umbrella group comprising the industry’s professional associations and regulators.

He says geoscientists help society meet its needs for natural resources. “That includes all types of metals, minerals and earth materials, sources of energy, even fresh water and fertile soil,” Mr. Bonham said.

They also help protect the public from natural hazards, such as floods, volcano eruptions, earthquakes and landslides, by studying the earth and working with companies, communities, and governments to assess potential risks. They also conduct research with geological and geophysical surveys or government agencies such as the Geological Survey of Canada.

By the numbers: There are about 12,600 geoscientists in Canada (which includes oceanographers), according to the 2011 National Household Survey, and about 2,400 geological engineers.

Job prospects: Despite the recent slump in the mining industry and some cutbacks in the oil sector, the longer term prospects are good. Not only are companies going further afield to find the resources to support a growing population, but the aging work force means more opportunity for those coming into the profession.

Challenges: It may be a science, but Mother Nature can be unpredictable. It’s also a lot of responsibility to help companies and governments determine whether a piece of land is safe from potential natural risks such as erosion, landslides and earthquakes.

Why they do it: Not only is it one of the highest-paying professions in Canada, but geoscientists choose this career based on a love for science, technology and the great outdoors. The role can also be very diverse, from interpreting scientific data in the field to making boardroom presentations to directors on a particular discovery or area of interest for exploration. There are also a number of specialty areas that geoscientists can get into, such as petroleum geology, earth physics or volcanology, to name a few. Geoscientists can also go on to work in upper management of resource companies in the mining and oil and gas industries.

Misconceptions: It’s not all about digging in the dirt. Many geoscientists work in an office environment. There’s also a misconception that geologists only work to help pull resources from the earth, when their job is also to help protect it. Most people don’t realize that geoscience is now a regulated profession in Canada, says Mr. Bonham.

Give us the scoop: Are you a geoscientist in Canada or do you want to be? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to careerquestion@globeandmail.com and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.

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